It’s important to find ways to keep employees as part of the team while they’re working from afar.
If your team is going to be remote either temporarily or permanently, you need to let them know they matter. I manage projects that are all over the state: Sometimes, my team members are operating hundreds of miles away for months on end. When they’re gone, it can be difficult to coordinate and to let them know how much they matter to me and the company. When they come back, it can be difficult to integrate them back into the team.
These are things you need to be able to prevent as a manager. It’s important to find ways to keep employees as part of the team while they’re working from afar. Here are a few strategies that have worked well for me:
I find a good workplace chat app is a great way to keep remote team members connected to everyone else. I encourage project discussions on apps like Slack, so everything is preserved if we need a record. Even if remote employees aren’t in the office, they can be as active as anyone else when it comes to updating messages and joining conversations.
I have always supported a casual channel on our Slack organization so that employees can say things that don’t fit into the work channels. A channel like this one is even more important when you have remote employees, because they’ve lost their access to the “watercooler” talk that builds relationships and cohesiveness in teams that are all in one place. Having a casual channel lets remote employees keep up with the conversations about interests and pop culture as a team that they would have otherwise missed.
It’s important to recognize the role that personal biases can play out in the way you judge your team’s achievements. It’s easier to sympathize with and recognize the team members who are with you, because you experience the things they do and think about every day. It can be a lot harder to recognize the accomplishments of your remote workers, even if they are over-achieving.
Make a habit of keeping track of the way that your employees have impressed you with their ability to handle responsibility, so you don’t fail to give people the recognition they deserve. Keep an Excel sheet or a document that allows you to record what everyone has accomplished, and make sure you’re just as disciplined at keeping it updated when your employees are remote. That will allow you to judge the accomplishments of remote employees as fairly as the ones you see every day.
When a team member is going to be remote for longer than a month, it’s important that you schedule time to either visit them at the remote location or ask them to come in to join important meetings or events. This not only gives them more face-time with their colleagues, it makes it easier to integrate them into the team when they return.
It’s not hard to make a remote team member feel close and involved. Learning how to manage employees like this is going to become even more important as more people start working remotely in the future, so try some of these strategies today. As long as you keep them involved, recognize their accomplishments and make some time for face-to-face meetings, you can have a great relationship.
By Matt Doyle, VP and co-founder of Excel Builders. Originally published at Inc.com.